A Researcher’s Guide to Social Media

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Photo by Ladyheart at Morguefile.com

How can I use twitter to develop my career?

How much should I share with people? 

What other sites are researchers using?

How do I develop a social media strategy for my group?

Social media has become part of (most of) our lives, but if our use has developed principally for personal and social use it can be challenging to work out how to reap career benefits. Today I ran a workshop for researchers in our College of Medicine and Vetinary Medicine to help them develop their online profiles and work out which social media options were best for them. I tried to answer the questions above (and others) and also promised to post a blog with the slides and useful links. (This is it.)

I know that the University of Bristol is about to launch a researcher’s guide to social media which I’ll link to from here once it is available. This will cover the themes of my workshop in more depth and includes a series of worksheets to help their researchers develop effective approaches online. Watch this space…

The workshop was also an opportunity to bring together researchers in the College and build some connections and awareness about IAD and the new focus on research staff and their support in the College. A new twitter feed EdMedECR is part of the communication strategy and hopefully is getting new followers as a result of the workshop.

It’s important to note that this was a general introductory session from a user of social media with an expertise in researcher development. I’d strongly recommend that anyone wanting to develop a stronger digital presence engages with the real experts in the Univesrity either by signing up for the brilliant Digital Footprint MOOC or by working through the list on 23 Things . I’m currently doing both and am learning a LOT. You can learn a little more about the MOOC by reading about the topics covered in the first few weeks – Behind the scenes at the Digital Footprint MOOC –  from Nicola Osborne of EDINA, and you can read the paper that I mentioned on the Uncontainable Self (the version of you that exists online because of the way you are mentioned by others.)

The SLIDES: MVM Soc Med online

The links and additional content:

Those fun guys in pathology know a thing or two about twitter#autopsy

Verifying social media content: John Hopkins University Library

How to get started on twitter – an introduction from a very basic level (will get your started but is a little dated)

An overview of the potential value of Twitter for academics  – another introduction, broken down into five themes.

How academics use twitter – links to the lighter side of academic twitter

Paul Coxen, University of Cambridge explains why twitter has particular value for early career researchers 

What are the funding models for key academic sites? – an article from Times Higher on the underlying business models for a few familiar platforms.

A review of ResearchGate by a researcher at Exeter University

Facebook for Researchers – from a researcher at Warwick University

Broadening your network and visibilty on LinkedIn – from Impact Story

What do others see when they look for you online? Search for yourself without filters at https://duckduckgo.com

Blogs about university and higher education issues can help you develop a more strategic view of research. One example is Professor Dame Athene Donald, Chair of the new REF interdisc panel: http://occamstypewriter.org/athenedonald/

Many academics have blogged about the approaches they’ve taken to build the impact of their research on the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog (not just for social scientists) which has built into a fantastic resource on strategies for engaging people with your work.

I also mentioned The Conversation which is an online newspaper/magazine written by researchers. Lots of UoE posts but room for more…

Finally, we mentioned Piirus, the collaboration hub owned by jobs.ac.uk. The blog they publish has many articles about academic life and advice for early career researchers.

If you attended the session and have any new questions, just post them in the comments below and I’ll add in any additional answers. If you want more details of other resources I mentioned, just drop me an email and I’ll send these out.

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I saw it on Twitter

Today’s post is a small celebration of my favourite social media site (apart from Ravelry, but that doesn’t have quite the same relevance to researcher development). Other SM sites are available and it would be great to feature these in future – let me know if you want to write your own celebration.

Twitter works for me because of the way other people use it – they post material that I find useful, in a way I find engaging. This is something that you should bear in mind as you develop your own social media strategy (and if you need help with this, look at the Social Media Strategy Template from Mark Reed at Fact Track Impact).

I’m still fairly new in my IAD role, but for many years in consultancy, twitter had a huge impact in four areas of my life and work. I’m going to talk through these and try to give some examples.

Neighbourhood. In a university you have a neighbourhood, a physical environment which I live in and interact with. I bump into people, I see notices on boards, I get emails about events – suddenly I’m part of something. Being based in Edinburgh, a fantastic city gives me another environment – theatres, shops, museums. There’s a constant flow of ideas and possibilities which come from the spaces around me. Much as I love the Scottish Borders where I live, it is a different kind of neighbourhood (although you should still visit). But even in The University of Edinburgh there are limits so Twitter helps me to inhabit a virtual space where I have news and interactions with the people and organisations that interest and inspire me.

Conversations. This leads me into the second thing that I love about twitter, which is the conversations that I have there. The 140 character limit facilitates rather than limits this as people get to the point and focus on key information. You can quickly contribute ideas and there’s a very open and democratic culture. As long as you have something interesting to say, just say it. The hierarchy is less obvious which can increase the richness of conversations as lots of different persepctives come in. Another great feature is being able to listen to conversations if you follow both/all of the people having them. I particularly enjoy these moments which remind me of my time as a young researcher sitting in our departmental tea room (yes kids, we used to have tea rooms in departments…) listening to the academics talking about research, funding, teaching and all kinds of other things. Eavesdropping aside, the conversations I’ve had on twitter have been great for strengthening my network and helped me to network more easily face to face…

Network …so it’s no surprise that networking features in this list. The connections made on twitter have led to collaborations, joint workshops, offers to write, interviews and friendships. It’s also a great “shop window” for your ideas and approach to life, so I try to be authentic when I post things. It’s a personal feed and I hope when people  meet me face to face, that I’ve represented myself accurately. If you find face to face networking challenging, you can lay really great foundations online and that initial approach when you are finally in the room becomes much, much easier.

Information flow As an enthusiastic advocate of social media I am used to hearing “but I don’t have time!” (or the delightfully passive aggressive “I don’t know where you find the time”). Twitter saves me LOADS of time. It’s where I hear about most developments from funders and key organisations; it points me to interesting ideas at conferences that I don’t have the time or money to attend; it gives me a sense of how researchers, academic leaders and people who work in roles like mine are reacting to big issues like REF, impact, funding and HE policy. It took time for me to build up the community that I follow, but now that is in place (and constantly evolving) it is an efficiency tool. There’s more here on the time wasting myth and other preconceptions that might be stopping you from getting started.

In short, twitter filled in the gaps for me and I’ve written in a previous existence about starting points for researchers wanting to build up a useful feed. As a researcher your gaps are likely to be different, but think about the role that social media – and there are many platforms available – could play in filling these.